Masks to be optional for upcoming school year in Orange County

FDOH says nearly 27% of children 12-17 after fully vaccinated in county

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Masks will be optional for the upcoming school year in Orange County.

This move came after a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, Karen Castor Dentel of District 6 was the only board member to vote against the new policy.

Parents shared passionate opinions on the debate to make masks optional in the district at a school board meeting.

The draft policy reads “each student, employee, visitor, vendor, or other person may voluntarily wear a face covering at their discretion.”

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However, it also reads, “In the event the CDC or other governmental entities issues updated guidance which mandates more restrictive face covering requirements, the School Board authorizes the Superintendent to implement the more restrictive face covering requirements in accordance with that guidance.”

Parents on both sides of the issue made sure their point was heard at the meeting Tuesday.

“I would like to see [elementary students] wearing masks. they don’t have the ability to get a vaccine,” Jennifer Dotson said.

“I don’t want masks at all,” David Duffy said. “They keep more bacteria in the masks, it’s not saving any lives.”

Each student, employee, visitor and vendor may voluntarily wear a mask.

The vote comes as the CDC released new guidelines last week which said fully vaccinated students and teachers will not have to wear masks in the fall. According to the latest data provided by the state health department, nearly 27% of children between 12 and 17 years old are fully vaccinated in Orange County.

It will go into effect no later than Aug. 2.

Brevard, Osceola, Flagler, Lake, Marion, and Seminole counties all have optional mask policies in place.

On Monday, Orange County leaders recommended everyone to wear a mask when in crowded, indoor locations regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

According to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the county’s 14-day rolling positivity rate now sits at 7.78%.

“Two weeks ago on June 28, it was 4.28%. We are now considered by the CDC the high-risk category for community transmission, that quite frankly is not good news for our county,” Demings said.